Iranian stamp from 1975 left to right: Eslimi, Sarv, Boteh

 L-R: Eslimi, Sarv (Cypress), Boteh
 Iranian stamp - 1975

                                                                                        "An ordinary carpet is for walking on, but a Persian carpet, richly woven, is an invitation to  a dream" - Henri Matisse


ARTIST   STATEMENT  

I began my quest for truth through art, looking into my own cultural heritage and its intersection with Islam. I am intrigued by the rules and regulations set in place in Iran since the Islamic revolution of 1979, and how they fail to correspond to the Iranian masses, women in particular, in today's fast-paced global village. I question the ongoing struggle between the politics of power, religion, and art. I manipulate symbols impregnated with religious iconography, questioning the historic sanctity of religious experiences expressed through art. Rooted deep within me, I am inspired by Persian aesthetics in art, music, poetry and architecture. My predominant source of inspiration breeds from Persian aesthetic sensibilities and Persian miniatures. I am fascinated by Iran's wealth of art manifested in intricate Eslimi patterns in shimmering nuances of gold, silver and luminous hues found in various sources ranging from rugs and illuminations to mosques and architecture. 

Growing up in Iran, as far back as I can remember I have played on Persian rugs, with their intricately beautiful Eslimi patterns which never fail to mesmerize me. I know my first aesthetic experience must have happened while playing on a Persian rug. The Eslimi patterns used in almost all artwork currently classified as Islamic, are in fact rooted in pre-Islamic Persia. According to historians during the first centuries of the Islamic conquest of Persia, Muslim rulers prohibited artists from depicting realistic imagery of nature including human figures, deeming  painting  to be a heresy  and artists competing with 'Allah' the creator. Hence, to satisfy their creative yearnings, artists adorned the Qur'an with illuminations based on abstract carpet and textile motifs rooted in the Sassanian Empire as the only means left for their artistic expression. Among such motifs was the predominant  Boteh motif, depicting the bent Cypress of Shiraz (Sarv). Boteh  was elaborated upon and later gave birth to the Eslimi designs used in Iranian art and architecture. Initially created as extensions for Boteh, the Eslimi flourished as an individual art form over the course of centuries, spreading throughout the Islamic world.  Subsequently, the harsh restrictions which geared artists towards the use of Eslimi and Boteh, lay the foundations for a distinct style of art which is commonly misrepresented today as Islamic; an art form which is far more Iranian in its essence than it will ever be Islamic. 

Over the course of centuries, the Eslimi and Boteh spread out through India and to the Islamic lands as well as to the west by merchants and were erroneously labeled ‘Arabesque’; while the term ‘Paisley’ was wrongly attributed to Boteh; resulting from British merchants trading Indian shawls depicting the Boteh motif in a town called Paisley in England. Ironically, Boteh is a motif for the Cypress (Sarv), and Iran's national symbol for freedom. As the legend goes, bending with the harshest wind, the Cypress of Shiraz which Boteh is based upon is the only tree which never breaks, standing eternally upright with the passing of each storm. According to researchers, Boteh only appeared in its present bent form after the Islamic conquest of Persia, while it appears standing upright in pre-Islamic artifacts. Researchers trace back its origin to the sacred Cypress of Zoroaster, which was ordered to be cut down with the advent of Islam. 

Some believe Boteh's bent form, taking the shape of a teardrop, symbolizes Iran grieving its loss…

- Shady Eshghi CONTEMPORARY  IRANIAN ARTIST SHADY ESHGHI